“It’s only in the autumn where I can take breaths that make me want to take more breaths . . . But I will always enjoy the grey solemn solitude of this season that grows darker and colder, day by day.” ~ Henry Rollins, from Solipsist

Gustav Klimt The Birch Wood 1903 oil on canvas
“The Birch Wood” (1903, oil on canvas)
by Gustav Klimt

“a dream of creatures
with autumn coloured faces
their bodies vent to earth
falling under the spell
of the spinning world” ~ Anja Huwe, from “Autumn”

Sunday afternoon. Cloudy and cooler, 58 degrees.

Last night I had a Harry Potter dream, sort of. I was going back to school, but I wasn’t on any of the rolls because I had failed two classes the semester before. I was hoping to fake my way through. Then suddenly, spells and wand work were required, and I was performing abysmally, unable to remember even basic spells, and Hermione was actually one of my main nemeses from high school, and she was aligned with someone else, and I was left to my own devices, trying to remember things besides accio and stuff, and I had boils on my chest, and I created an itching powder (directly related, I’m sure, to the fact that yesterday I had to take two baths (am and pm) and soak in colloidal oatmeal for nervous itching) and smeared it across everyone’s lockers so that everyone was affected, and then I realized too late that I had also affected allies, and I had that recurring dream part in which one of my classes was never finished because the professor just stopped teaching four weeks before the end and called it a day, and we were wondering if we were responsible for what wasn’t covered, and I realized, too, that I had none of my special grid notebooks for class, nor any of my preferred pens, and I awoke with, you guessed it, a headache . . .

TomThomson-Moonlight-and-Birches-1916-17
“Moonlight and Birches” (1916-17)
by Tom Thomson

And yesterday I had this moment in which I paused to consider whether or not I had truly read To Kill a Mockingbird, or if it was one of those titles that I had read so much about that I imagined actually reading the book.

This is what happens when I have to spend too much time on the phone arguing with people over basic things like health insurance coverage. My mind reverts to a pseudo-fugue state in an attempt to shut down, not deal with too much.

“This October like November,
That August like a hundred thousand hours,
And that September,
A hundred thousand dragging sunlit days,
And half October like a thousand years . . .” ~ Ford Madox Ford, from “In October 1914 [Antwerp]”

I wrote another poem earlier today. I don’t know where these poems are coming from, only that they are coming. I don’t claim to be a prolific or particularly wonderful poet, though at one time in my life that was all that I ever wanted to be: a published poet, a name associated with poetry, a person known for her words as poems.

Antonín Slavíček - Birch Wood 1897 oil on canvas
“Birch Wood” (1897, oil on canvas)
Antonín Slavíček

As with many things in my life, I did not do what I needed to do to make this happen. I did not believe in myself enough, something I am well aware I have done throughout most of the days of my life. Believing takes effort. Doing takes effort. Effort takes effort.

Do you ever wonder what your life would have been like if you had followed your very first dream, the dream of your life that first spoke to you, the dream that made you sit up and recognize that you were in fact a person, with dreams and desires, and yes, possibilities? My first dream was to be a poet, and truthfully, I remember the exact moment I said to myself that this was what I wanted to be when I grew up: I was in the first grade in London, and I had just won my first poetry contest for a rather short and sweet poem about the seasons.

And then I ran into that English teacher in the seventh grade who took one look at what I had written and told me that it was not a poem because it did not go da-duh, da-duh, da-duh, and I believed him even though I knew better. And then I had that American literature professor as an undergraduate who told me that the only female poet of worth was Emily Dickinson, and I did not believe him because I had read other women, but I let him silence me.

“Mute Autumn odors. The
starflower, unbroken, passed
between home and chasm through
your memory.
A strange lostness was
palpably present, almost
you would
have lived.” ~ Paul Celan, from “Die Niemandsrose,” (No one’s rose), trans. Michael Hamburger

The dreams of lives I thought I might have:

  • Journalist for a large city paper (this I did not pursue because of love, not that he did not want me to but because I forgot to care)
  • Photojournalist traveling the world (never even tried)
  • State politician (at the time, this seemed like a great goal to have, and then, not)
  • Editor for a large corporation (I came close, but then I decided that my daughter needed her grandparents, and so I moved)
  • English professor at a liberal arts college (Where is the MFA or the PhD that would have allowed me to try for this?)
  • Published author of criminal mysteries (I have no excuses)
A Golovin Birches 1908-10
“Birches” (1908-10)
by Antonin Golovin

And then these, lesser things, that I have imagined I could do if I just took the time:

  • Sew a large quilt, one that could be handed down generation after generation
  • Have a large rose garden, filled with many varieties and scents
  • Learn to bake a wedding cake
  • Make my own soaps and salves and scrubs

My life of what-ifs is one long list of should and might, and my biggest hindrance has only ever been myself.

“oh it is the autumn light
that brings everything back in one hand
the light again of beginnings
the amber appearing as amber” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “September Plowing”

Isaac Levitan Autumn period Birches 1899 oil on cardboard
“Autumn. Birches” (1899, oil on cardboard)
by Isaac Levitan

I offer no excuses, no explanations. I am far too tired to make the effort.

And yet the poems, the sequences of words keep coming, too fast to be finessed well, a tumble of words and thoughts, and I am unused to this creative wellspring, not having seen its likes in years, decades, and I wonder why, why now, why when I gave up on the poems years ago.

Anyway, I wrote another poem today, and once again, I’m sharing, even though it is a first draft, even though it is rough, because the need to put this out here is stronger than my need to hide, so here is today’s:


 

In the bedroom

smells of my husband’s homemade soup
drift down the hall from the kitchen
he is cooking this for me,
his personal salve for my wounds
his quiet prayer for my wellness
in a few hours I will blow steam across the surface of the deep bowl
across the sunken bodies of the fulsome vegetables
let the liquid slip across my tongue
taste him in the broth:

hot enough to scorch my soul,
strong enough to feed my heart
thick enough to bind my rent spirit
copious enough to recall my father’s love
bitter enough to remind me of death
with just a dusting of grace

L. Liwag (November 9, 2014)

                   

Music by Lewis Watson, “Stay”

                   

Afterwards

Suddenly
everything feels afterwards,
stoic and inevitable,
my eyes ringed with the grease of rumor and complicity,
my hands eager to hold any agreeable infatuation
that might otherwise slip away.
Suddenly
it’s evening and the lights up and
down the street appear hopeful,
even magnanimous,
swollen as they are with ancient grievances
and souring schemes. The sky,
however,
appears unwelcoming,
and aloof, eager to surrender
its indifference to our suffering.
Speaking of suffering,
the houses—our sober, recalcitrant houses—
are swollen with dreams that have grown opaque with age,
hoarding as they do truths
untranslatable into auspicious beliefs.
Meanwhile,
our loneliness,
upon which so many laws are based,
continues to consume everything.
Suddenly,
regardless of what the gods say,
the present remains uninhabitable,
the past unforgiving of the harm it’s seen,
while
the future remains translucent
and unambiguous
in its desire to elude us.

~ Philip Schultz

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“He did not remember when everything began to remind him of something else.” ~ Tobias Wolff, from “Bullet in the Brain”

"Cloister Cemetery in the Snow (1817-19, oil on canvas)by Caspar David Friedrich
“Cloister Cemetery in the Snow” (1817-19, oil on canvas)
by Caspar David Friedrich

“I never change, I simply become more myself.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates,  from Solstice

Wednesday late afternoon. Cloudy and cold, 40’s.

I spent a lot of time today editing photos that Corey downloaded from the camera, starting with last Christmas. Yes, I am remiss. I changed my header image and my gravatar. What do you think?

My thoughts are meandering, so I thought that I’d create an appropriate post. Here are rambling thoughts, just because I can:

  • I really like eggnog with bourbon. It’s such an appropriately winter drink. Just saying.
"Hut in Snow" (1827, oil on canvas)by Caspar David Friedrich
“Hut in Snow” (1827, oil on canvas)
by Caspar David Friedrich
  • No one sends Christmas cards any more. To date, we have received a whopping two. That won’t stop me from sending them, though.
  • Corey thinks I’m silly for sending out cards after Christmas, but I contend that my cards bear good wishes for the coming year, which makes them pretty timeless. Anyway, I hope to get them out in the next few days.
  • I need to make Olivia’s Christmas stocking, but so far I am uninspired. Nothing is really striking me, so I think that I just need to go to the fabric store and meander.
  • I’m not really feeling this whole Christmas season yet, and it’s almost the middle of the month. Perhaps my vacation threw off my whole timing?
  • When Corey and I were on the bus that took us from the airport to the pier, we passed this expansive wetland, and this is what I thought: That would be a great place to hide a body. Does this make me stranger than I already think that I am?

“You, clamped in your Depths,
climb out of yourself
for ever.” ~ Paul Celan, from “Illegibility”

Things that wish were different:

  • I wish that I was as secure about my physical being as Corey is about his. He gladly poses for pictures and then actually allows people to see those pictures. I reluctantly pose for pictures, and then—if and only if I Photoshop them into an acceptable state—chances are great that no one will ever see them.
"Winter Landscape with Church" (1811, oil on canvas)Caspar David Friedrich
“Winter Landscape with Church” (1811, oil on canvas)
Caspar David Friedrich
  • I wish that I could live more in the present and future instead of so much in the past, but I realize that at this point in my life, I am unlikely to change.
  • I wish that my children did not inherit my insecurities and inanities. Alexis is way too OCD; Eamonn overcompensates because he is insecure; and Brett views the world through a cynical lens. All me.
  • I wish that I were better at maintaining friendships, but I realize that having been burned badly in my last significant friendship that I am very, very gun-shy.
  • I wish that I could go back and change my decision not to pursue my doctorate decades ago.
  • I wish that I knew what made my mother such a hard person. I mean, what happened to her? There had to be something. When I told her that my ex and Ann were flying to Germany for Patrick’s memorial service, she said, “Why?” As in, she really couldn’t fathom what the point was. I just don’t understand.

Every man casts a shadow; not his body only, but his imperfectly mingled spirit. This is his grief. Let him turn which way he will, it falls opposite to the sun; short at noon, long at eve. Did you never see it?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Things I genuinely don’t like about myself:

  • I don’t really think that I’m a good soul, you know, the kind of person who people will say, “She was a good person.”
Caspar David Friedrich, Graveyard under Snow 1826 oil on canvas
“Graveyard Under Snow” (1826, oil on canvas)
Caspar David Friedrich
  • I acknowledge that I’m an intellectual snob, and it’s not an exactly endearing quality, but at least I am aware that it’s true.
  • I have to force myself to make small-talk. Idle conversation is not my forte, but engross me in a political discussion or a discussion on the disparities in society, and I can talk forever.
  • I have one of those mouths that turns down at the corners. I realized this when I was about 14, and it has bothered me ever since. I mean, how can you go about with a cheerful disposition if your mouth cannot even physically reflect this?
  • When did I get thighs? I’ve never had thighs, but, well, there they are. Getting older is hard enough without gaining bodily sections that you never had. I used to like my legs, really like them as in not be ashamed to show them, but now? Geez.

“That’s why I speak
In a voice so soft it sounds like writing
Night writing. A structure of feeling
Broken by hand.” ~ Ben Lerner, from “Mean Free Path”

Things that creep into my thoughts in the middle of the night:

  • I am not middle aged. I am older than middle aged, unless I’m going to live much longer than anyone in my family. This is a brutal reality.
Caspar David Friedrich, Dolmen in the Snow oil on canvas
“Dolmen in the Snow” (1807, oil on canvas)
by Caspar David Friedrich
  • It’s strange to realize that more of your life is past you than before you.
  • In the last 15 months, I have lost three people and one canine friend. And people wonder why I am so fixated on loss.
  • At this stage of my life, I am probably going to be dealing with the loss of more people from my life, and I wish with all of my heart that this were not so.
  • Maybe I really am too old to embark upon a whole new chapter. How does one know this? Who decides what is too old?
  • Ernest Hemingway wrote when he was just a child that he was going to be a writer and go on adventures. When I was just a child, I said that I was going to be a poet. He did exactly what he said he was going to do. Why didn’t I?

“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” ~ Franz Kafka

Idle remnants:

  • The name of the book that I was going to write years ago was White Moon on Black Water: Writings on Loss and Resolution. I still think it’s a good title.
  • I really wish that I could be working in the publishing industry in some capacity.

    Caspar David Friedrich Tree of Crows, oil on canvas, ca 1822
    “Tree of Crows” (ca 1822, oil on canvas)
    Caspar David Friedrich
  • I really wish that I were working.
  • It’s hard for me to answer the question posed by strangers, “So, what do you do?” Do? Nothing?
  • I am of that generation that equates self-worth with careers. That old Puritan work ethic: Hard work brings success. Interestingly, though, I have never equated money with success, as in the more I made, the more successful I was. My goal was always that I like what I was doing, whatever it was.
  • Do you know that well before the scrapbooking fad I was making books for people, and these books were filled with pictures and poems and quotes that I thought suited the individual. My therapist asked me if this wouldn’t be a good business idea, and I told her that I didn’t really think so. That right there shows you how my mind does not work in a capitalist fashion. I could only see the books as creative outlets, not as a money-making venture. This is why I will never be rich.

(All images by Caspar David Friedrich, 19th century German Romantic painter)

Music by Efterklang (a recent discovery), “Natural Tune”

                   

Abyss

You’ve left a hole
the size of the sky
in the chair across the table

in the chasm of the closet
your shoes hold the shape
of every step we took

through the seven rooms
of a world with no language
but that of moving

on macadam and the miles
of velvet earth before rainfall
between rows of corn

and up the curving drive
until they landed beside
the bed a black hole

you disappeared through
as I look for a sign
of you slivered with stars

your body without borders
nowhere and everywhere
in the wind moving through trees

on its way down the hall
to the back of my neck
in the chill you still send through me

and so I slip into the deep
abyss of your shoes
standing where you were last

pointing in two directions
trusting the way forward
is also the way back

~ Wyatt Townley

“Let us sculpt in hopeless silence all our dreams of speaking.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

 

                   

“rush of pine scent (once upon a time),
the unlicensed conviction
there ought to be another way
of saying
this.” ~ Paul Celan

Thursday evening. Cold. Incipient migraine.

William Blake once said that “in the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.”  I found a card once that depicted a series of doors, and the Blake quote was printed at the top. I had that card on my collage for years.

I think that we very often go through doors without a clear conception of what may be lying on the other side. In our attempts just to move through life, we open a door, hoping that some kind of truth will be waiting on the other side. And that truth may indeed be there, but it just isn’t the truth that we were anticipating.

Does that make any sense?

“There is this white wall, above which the sky creates itself—
Infinite, green, utterly untouchable.
Angels swim in it, and the stars, in indifference also.
They are my medium.
The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights.

A gray wall now, clawed and bloody.
Is there no way out of the mind?” ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Apprehensions”

Writing in Old Notebook (ca. 1884)

Let me back up and attempt to explain: Each year, in the months of November and December my nuclear family undergoes a change. The change is not sought, nor is it necessarily wanted, but without fail, it rears its head and begins to bite little pieces out of our souls, mine and Corey’s, that is.

You see, in November I try so hard to bring to the forefront of my mind the face of my father and the face of my daughter. Both gone for years, I hope that by being able to conjure the lines of their faces, the shapes of their eyes, their noses, I will be able to regain some semblance of closeness to them.

It is, undoubtedly, an exercise in pain. I know this, but the knowing does not stop me. For the entire month of November, whether or not I realize it, I am a walking time bomb, tormented by slights—real and imagined. My family, being keenly aware of this, takes pains to compensate for my temporary insanity, and I try very hard not to lose too much of myself in my heart-madness.

December 5th passes (my father’s birthday); I begin to emerge, and I try to reset my mind, to move into holiday mood. I do this because my childhood love of Christmas is one thing that I cling to in the hopes of recreating a Currier & Ives holiday that probably never happened. Nevertheless, in my hopes of sharing smiles of happiness with my family on Christmas morning, I use the holidays as my means of escaping the brutal realities of November.

The problem with this scenario? Corey hates Christmas. I don’t really know all of the reasons why, but he has never shared in my childlike (childish?) fondness for all that December encompasses: the lights, the smells, the trees, the gifts, the presents, the appearance of Venus in the sky, brighter and seemingly nearer than any other time of the year. For me, it’s not the spirituality but rather the idea of family, and sharing, and beauty.

For Corey, I don’t know what it is other than something he would rather skip. In fact, Corey becomes downright desolate in December, and that desolation on the heels of my November decline inevitably leads to friction, misunderstanding, and distance.

“While I was looking the other way your fire went out
Left me with cinders to kick into dust
What a waste of the wonder you were

In my living fire I will keep your scorn and mine
In my living fire I will keep your heartache and mine
At the disgrace of a waste of a life” ~ Kristin Cashore, “Dellian Lament,” from Fire

Quill and Writing Desk

The overlapping of these two emotional falls never bodes well. It is as if we are two pieces of tinder, small enough to be borne about by the wind, but infused with enough power to ignite a fire of immense proportions. Trust me when I say that this is not a good thing.

For the past two weeks Corey has been one raw wound.  He snipes, and with my perceived wounds, I retreat into a sullen silence. Today was no exception.  So here I sit feeling bitterly sorry for myself and wondering what I hope to achieve by writing all of this. Hence, the Blake quote about the known and unknown and the doors in between.

When two people are together, no matter how much love is between them, the moments of discord loom larger than the moments of harmony. That is a simple fact. I think that the more love there is, the more potential there is to be hurt. But the very nature of love as a double-edged sword is what draws us to it, what makes us yearn for it, and what makes us fear it. Because of this, some people close themselves off from the potential to be wounded, and then there are those of us who rip off our sleeves, beat our chests, and yell, “more!”

Love is inherently insane, and its slaves are doomed to be made fools again and again.

“I sought the peak of prudence, but I found
the hemlock-brimming valley of your heart,
and my own thirst for bitter truth and art.” ~ Federico García Lorca, from “Stigmata of Love” 

Selection from Old Manuscript

It is now 3:30 a.m., early Saturday morning. The incipient migraine hit me full force while writing this post, and I have not been able to return to it until now. I should probably go back and try to make more sense of what I wrote before, but quite frankly, I just don’t care. That I am not asleep is a reflection not only of the effects of the migraine but also of the deep depression that crept upon me in the last 48 hours.

The depression is an amalgamation of many factors that have been building over the past few weeks. When Corey asked me a few nights ago just why I was so prickly, I took his question to heart and made myself do some searching within. These are the things that have been bothering me:

My mother, with whom I lived during the time immediately after her fall and during her recovery, had a sort of mantra with which she filled our days together: She was on a fixed income (lost count of how many times I heard that), and paying her bills was of such import to her that she tried to get out of her sick-bed only a few days after falling so that she could make out her checks. As I mentioned in previous posts, I ended up doing her bills for her in the interim, so I have more than a passing knowledge about her income and her financial obligations, which are, for the most part, just the costs associated with day-to-day living: utilities, food, insurance. She is not well off, but neither is she in the poor house.

So when she began to talk of buying another car so that she could give Alexis her 2002 Honda Civic, I listened/only half-listened. I had heard it all before, and she changed her mind daily, depending upon whether or not she was angry with Alexis. This is how my mother operates. Not to mention the fact that I did not want to think about  the complaints that the coming months would bring if my mother took on a car payment, how she is barely making it. I know: I sound like the bitch that I am.

Admittedly, I was also not necessarily pleased with the idea of my mother giving my daughter yet another car (third since my father died), mostly because Alexis is still not working and not making any attempts to find employment. I thought that such an act on my mother’s part would only continue to reinforce Alexis’s less than responsible behavior. But what do I know as I am only her mother . . .

The short of it is that my mother ended up buying herself a new Honda Accord and gave Alexis the Civic so that she (Alexis) can look for a job. I tried to stay out of the whole process as much as possible, which is pretty much impossible in matters involving my mother as she is a master at guilting me into doing things that I would prefer not to do. I acquiesce because it is easier and because I carry an inordinate amount of guilt in matters concerning my mother.

I decided to put my foot down in the only way that I thought made sense: I declared that Corey and I would not be footing the bill for Alexis’s car insurance, which we have been doing without any recompensation from her for quite a while now. Corey declared that I was being petty, which led to some of the discord to which I referred above.

“Nothing adds up.
It all adds up. How long will this storm go on?” ~ Raymond Carver, “Stupid”

Quill and Inkpot

I have never thought of myself as petty, so the word hurt terribly, especially coming from Corey. Is it petty that right now I have problems of my own that consume me? That right now, I find that my empathy, my sympathy, my whatever-pathy is lacking? More guilt. 

But what was and is really bothering me? So much and so little, as usual. Alexis, 26, no job, no apparent ambition, coasting and casting about and living off the kindness of those who love and care for her. ‘She has problems,’ I am reminded, words that I have spoken myself on occasion. I despair of what will become of her; I know that whatever that is, it is beyond my doing now. That realization  is hard as the love that I bear for my children is so powerful, so all-consuming.

My instincts always are to protect, to help, to soothe. But is this not a disservice in some ways? Have I not contributed to my daughter’s sense that someone will always be there for her? And yet, I never want her to feel the despair that I have felt. I never want her to feel as if she has no one in the world who is there for her as I have felt.

As a parent, will I ever reach a point at which I do not feel both responsible and burdened? Perhaps this time of the night is not the best time to try to unravel these mysteries.

Yet I wonder if I will ever reach a point in my life in which melancholy will not be able to envelop me so completely. I feel as if I am deep inside a crevice, looking up towards a sky that I know is there but cannot reach. I have no ulterior motive—no arrière pensée, if you will—for revealing the turmoil which I feel.

I long to have someone to call in the middle of the night who will be able to discern just from the timbre of my voice that while I may feel impenetrable, I can still be reached. I miss having a best friend.

Enough already. I have written myself into a corner. As I have said before, it is all too much and not enough, and to continue pick at the wound will only leave a scar.

More later. Peace.

Music by Glass Pear, “My Ghost” (what an incredible voice)

                   

All the True Vows

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

David Whyte, from The House of Belonging